Personal blogging note: Israel and the West Bank

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It feels like I’ve only just returned from Honduras and I’m once again off — this time to Israel and to the West Bank.ISrel Flag Iconpalestine

While I hope to talk to officials on both sides about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process (which certainly seems less likely now than it did just months ago — before the US-Iran cooperation, before the Obama administration’s perceived dithering on Syria’s chemical weapons, and before the return of Israel’s nationalist foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman), it will be as much an opportunity to visit a place I’ve never seen and to catch up with an old friend or two.

I’ll be gone a week (over the US Thanksgiving holiday), and I’ll mostly be confined to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah, with day trips as time allows to various other cities in the West Bank and in Israel.

Accordingly, posting might be a little lighter than normal, or a little more oriented toward personal observations about Israel and the West Bank.   Tips for food, drink, nightlife, history, reading, museums are all welcomed.

Nov. 24 Elections — Honduras and Switzerland

But I’ll still have some post-election thoughts about Honduras (though it’s difficult to know when we’ll have results and whether those results will be accepted by each of the three main parties), which will elect a new president and a new legislature on Sunday.

Switzerland also holds an election on Sunday, where voters will determine whether to cap company salaries at a factor of 12 times the lowest salary.

Indian Regional Elections

India keeps pushing through a series of regional elections next week — Chhattisgarh finished the second of two rounds of elections earlier this week on November 19, the state of Madhya Pradesh votes on November 25, and Rajasthan goes to the polls on December 1.  The National Capital Territory of Delhi and Mizoram vote on December 4 before the results from all of the five states/territories are announced on December 8.

The regional elections, which sweep across a broad segment of central India, are fairly vanilla contests between the ruling center-left  Indian National Congress (Congress, or भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस) and the Hindu nationalist, center-right Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, or भारतीय जनता पार्टी).  With national elections to be held before May 2014, and a close race expected between the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, the five regional elections will be seen as tests for each party’s strength.

The contests cover states/territories with a cumulative population of 185 million — Madhya Pradesh alone has 73 million residents and Rajasthan has another 70 million.  I’ll have a deeper preview in the next week or so.

Don’t Forget Italy, Croatia and Germany

It’s also worth keeping an eye on Italy, where the scheduled November 27 vote to eject former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi from the Italian senate has already fractured the broad center-right between Berlusconi and his one-time protégé, Angelino Alfano, the current deputy prime minister in the ‘grand coalition’ government of prime minister Enrico Letta.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on Germany, where chancellor Angela Merkel hopes to conclude negotiations over her own ‘grand coalition’ next week, though talks haven’t necessarily been going as smoothly as expected.

Croatia, finally, will hold a referendum on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage on December 1.  More on that shortly as well.

Photo credit to Jonathan Hill.

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